FCC enlists former commissioners to battle Verizon on net neutrality

If rules upheld, FCC may try to regulate usage-based billing
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The FCC has recruited former commission chairman Reed Hundt and commissioners Michael Copps, Tyrone Brown and Nicholas Johnson to help it fight Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) attempts to block its network neutrality rules.

Responding to an appeal of the FCC's net neutrality rules that Verizon has been waging since 2011, the FCC veterans dismissed Verizon's argument that net neutrality rules infringe on the company's rights to free speech. "Verizon's arguments fail as a matter of constitutional principle. There is nothing inherently expressive about transmitting others' data packets, at a subscriber's direction, over the Internet," the former FCC commissioners wrote in a brief filed at U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, according to MediaPost.

Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) and other online video providers have supported the net neutrality rules, which were implemented in November 2011 and prohibit Internet service providers from discriminating against online content suppliers. The FCC has argued the rules are needed to protect competition.

"With Internet-based video services becoming an increasingly important aspect of competition between cable systems and satellite systems, blocking or degrading of Internet traffic threatens to eviscerate Congress's intent to protect competition," the Commission wrote in a brief filed at the Court of Appeals in September.

The court is expected to issue its decision later this year. In December, Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai warned if the net neutrality rules are upheld, the Commission could attempt to regulate usage-based broadband pricing. Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and other broadband providers that are beginning to experiment with usage-based pricing models could be impacted if the FCC tackles the issue.

For more:
- MediaPost has this story

Special report: 2012 Year In Review: Usage-based broadband launched by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink

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